New! 2-piece king size Snickers bar

Author: tshook

They just broke the King Size Snickers bar into two pieces.  It’s 0.4 ounces smaller now.  But the thing that gets me is that they put the exclamation point in the title (“New!”) like they’re fooling us.  Maybe they are.

Halloween Pumpkins

Author: tshook

I took these photos on Halloween night, 2008 here in Woodstock.  The Sunfrost Deli carves out a bunch of pumpkins for display every halloween.  Here’s the deli:


Here’s a few pumpkins:


And here’s the Barack Obama / Sarah Palin pumpkins:


Once more in the dark:



Author: tshook

nothing much to write.  My wrist hurts from riding the bike – haven’t been able to play for several weeks.  That’s cool – just wanted to knock the political blog down a notch.  Fats Waller was awesome.

Could Sarah Palin be the next Joseph Stalin?

Author: tshook

This just in from,8599,1837918,00.html

[Former Mayor John] Stein says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. “She asked the library how she could go about banning books,” he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. “The librarian was aghast.” That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn’t be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving “full support” to the mayor.

There’s a very real chance that if the McCain/Palin duo gets elected to office Sarah Palin could end up as the next President of the United States.  This story seems to be getting little play so please try to pass this on to our Republican friends.  I had thought that the issue of Religious Censorship vs. Spirit of Free Inquiry debate had been settled during the Age of Enlightment.  It seems the Republican VP nominee is about 300 years behind the times on this one.

AmeriBag, the Beautiful

Author: tshook

Customer service is becoming a memory in the US … but wait, this company is great:

I was in Manhattan one day in a bag shop and I picked out a shoulder bag by a brand I had never heard of called AmeriBag.  Turned out they are based in Kingston, NY – 10 miles from where I lived.  Veronica stopped by the local branch and bought a laptop backpack and a shoulder bag. 

Veronica’s zipper on the laptop bag broke a year later, but she had lost the receipt.  We asked what the warranty was and if there was any chance we could get it repaired without a receipt.  This is AmeriBag’s policy:

With any bag, you get a lifetime warranty.  At any time you may bring in your bag if damaged, with or without a receipt.  AmeriBag will then either give you a brand new duplicate bag if they have one in stock, or send it out for repair.  If they send it out for repair, they will give you a loaner bag that you can use in the meantime.

Incredible.  Everyone should shop at AmeriBag, that is if they don’t go out of business with a return policy like this 🙂

Me and Veronica in Paris

Author: tshook


I’ve been back from Paris for the last week or so.  The sidewalks are incredibly slanty there and they put street signs and stuff right in the middle so that you have to walk a tilted obstacle course.  So I fell off a sidewalk the 3rd day or so and have had a hurt ankle ever since.  (I never thought I would be saying I got injured from falling off a sidewalk – but it shows you’re capable of anything if you really put your mind to it)

I was going to say the French people are smarter than Americans until I saw the youtube video of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (filmed in France) where over 1/2 the audience incorrectly guessed that the Sun revolves around the Earth.  So I won’t go there.  But I will say they’re culturally more open to varying genres of music, art, and literature. 

Anyway here’s a picture of me at the Louvre next to some statue’s penis:


And here’s Veronica looking at some statue’s butt (again, at the Louvre):


Here’s Freddy Kreuger from Nightmare on Elm Street in the lobby of the Louvre – tonight he will terrorize teenagers while they sleep, but for now he’s probably going to visit the Italian Renaissance collection in the Sully wing of the Museum:


I think he saw us taking pictures of him and started to slink away – but not before I captured the notorious movie fiend one last time on camera:


Saw Ahmad Jamal at the Blue Note NY last night

Author: tshook

I went backstage and said hi – every time I see him I get really inspired.  He’s a true original.  He just recorded his first album in 3 years, and it was on a French label.  America is fairly dead for jazz, has been for a long time.  But that’s cool – although mass media has had a huge effect on the US population, perhaps limiting narrowing their aesthetic scope, people should consume what they want to consume.  Besides, most jazz kind of sucks anyway.  But that 3% that’s good is REALLY good.  And I think it’s the same spread for any other genre as well: Classical, country, rap, r&b, rock, bluegrass, whatever.  90% doesn’t really help, 10% is good and worth checking out, and that top 3% is MAGIC.

I’m especially honored because Mr. Jamal really liked my Travis Shook Plays Kurt Weill album.  He particularly loved the cello arrangement I did on “Lost in the Stars” (he’s mentioned it a couple times to me) and in general he complimented my arranging skills.  It’s a great honor when one of my all time heroes likes what I do, it’s the kind of thing that keeps me going.

Save Carnegie Artist Studios

Author: tshook

I’ve written about genius pianist Donald Shirley before.  He’s lived above Carnegie Hall for many years now and is over the age of 80.  They are about to evict him along with other 41 other artists, most of home are elderly and have lived there for dozens of years.

I’m all for capitalism, but I’m not for changing the rules whenever a corporation feels like it.  These studio apartments were set aside for artist housing in 1960, and need to stay that way as part of our cultural heritage, and, well just for the sake of not kicking elderly geniuses out of their apartments.

For more than 100 years, a unique collection of musicians, painters, sculptors, actors, drama coaches, photographers, architects, educators and related professionals have occupied the studios above Carnegie Hall as part of Andrew Carnegie’s mandate to house a comprehensive creative community.

Icons of American art and culture have lived, worked and studied in the Artist Studios: Marlon Brando, Leonard Bernstein, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Isadora Duncan, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine and Martha Graham are only a few of the legends that have called the Artists Studios an artistic haven or home. John Leguizamo, John Turturro, Mira Sorvino, David Duchovny and Richard Schiff.

If you want to get involved you may sign the petition here:

Is it live or is it Memorex?

Author: tshook

The first time I recognized the magic of European classical music was when pianist Richard Goode came to a small church in Olympia, Wa.  I think I was in my twenties by this time (or maybe my teens), and although I loved jazz, classical music was only interesting, nothing more.  Anyway, he started playing some Bach, and it was beautiful, organic, alive.  I was totally transfixed throughout the entire concert.  I was hearing something that lived and breathed just like me.  And Bach was written how many centuries ago?  The idea that it was “old” music never crossed my mind.

This was the same experience I had seeing Ornette Coleman in concert.  I couldn’t really get into his recordings so much, but the first time I saw him live I felt like I had just heard and witnessed something miraculous. Which leads me to the point of this entry:  For a newcomer, in order to “get what all the fuss is about” in jazz or classical music, I believe it has to be seen live.  At least once, but preferably multiple times to really give it a chance.  Kind of like drinking coffee – I sure as heck didn’t like it the first few times I drank it, but once I got it, I … actually, I need to cut down on coffee.  Moving on:  Once a new listener can witness the energy firsthand, then they can recognize that spirit in a cd or video, but from my experience it’s hard for most people to hear what’s happening if they’ve only been exposed to recorded media. 

Opera, especially, is almost completely flattened out on a video – it simply has to be seen live.  And it needs to be seen live in a big concert hall – that’s what opera is designed for. 

Contrast this with a lot of rock, pop, rap, etc… which seems to present itself better in recordings.  Often it’s very effective in on cd or video, because the engineering process adds a lot of subtleties that often aren’t really weren’t there when the band played the music (assuming there are musicians).  This is why a group might sound great on record but are very often disappointing in a live situation.

So this is my new theory: 

Jazz, Classical = Better seen live

Current popular music (MTV, BET) = Better on recording

Hank Williams

Author: tshook

I heard Hank Williams for the first time about a year ago.  I was totally floored, I can’t sing him enough praises – click here to hear what all the hype is about: